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Why it matters that TikTok is rivaling Google Search

Is Google Search about to start looking more like a TikTok feed?

Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Prabhakar Raghavan just dropped one helluva doozy.

At a conference last week in Colorado, the Google SVP revealed that “almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Here’s why that’s happening

When you search Google for a “cool bar in Boston,” for instance, you’re greeted with 125m results.

On TikTok, the same search will return quick, fun clips of Boston bars. What would you rather: 125m results, or a catchy 12-second video?

This may look bad for Google, but…

… here’s why Raghavan should be sleeping well at night.

  • Google faces a lot of antitrust scrutiny. The 40% stat will fit nicely alongside Google’s other defenses, like that “55% of people… start product searches on Amazon, not Google.”
  • Raghavan also has YouTube Shorts — Google’s TikTok clone with 1.5B viewers — that he could incorporate into Search.

Google has already worked on deals to index Instagram and TikTok clips. Between those and Shorts, you can expect parts of the Search experience to look more like TikTok in the future.

What’s this all mean for TikTok?

More scrutiny, probably. TikTok’s parent company is Chinese. Recently obtained audio recordings confirmed Chinese management effectively have unfettered access to US user data.

  • Despite this, users are spending more time on TikTok than Instagram and Facebook combined, or 91 minutes per day for the average US kid.

It doesn’t take a genius to see why US officials are concerned about a Chinese company’s grip on an algorithm that owns so much of our time.

Now, with TikTok rising as a search engine of choice, things could get even more interesting.

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